Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Answering Review Request: Kingdom Asunder

Thaddeus White asked me to read his novel, Kingdom Asunder. It is a Medieval Fantasy centering on a civil war of royal succession in the country of Denland. It shares a universe with his previous works "Bane of Souls" and "Journey to Altmortis". The latter of which I have reviewed. You can read this review here. . I will examine plot, character, and polish and then assign a grade.

PLOT

The plot is fairly straightforward; Denland's regent has declared the king-to-be illegitimate for reasons of parenthood and now the kingdom's nobles, knights, etc. are taking sides. What follows is the political and military fallout of these decisions.

Despite what the Amazon page says, Karena is not the protagonist of this story. Rather, it has an ensemble cast with many characters the view point. I count at seven points with their own character arcs and subplots. Mr.White is one of the few authors that I've seen make this work. Seriously, I can count them on one hand. This is because the viewpoints overlap, they are consistent, they tell different facets of the same, immediate, story, and finally, because the narrative truly focuses on two or three of the viewpoints. One of them is Karena. The analogy I use in this case is that of threads woven together to create rope.

This is the first book in a three book series and so it is split between the series conflict, the civil war, and this book's conflict. This can be loosely described as setting the conditions of the former and the gathering of allies by both sides. Although there is plenty of action, the two sides haven't officially clashed yet. It is safe to say that this book's conflict has indeed been resolved, though the war goes on.

Related plot threads include a Hykir invasion, a shift in the balance of power between mages and mage killers (called "Hollow Knights", who are, by the way, awesome), and the experiences of Stephen Penmere (Karena's cousin) alongside the war.

One might think that it is ridiculous to start a civil war over the king being a bastard, and particularly in this case, where the usurper has been regent for ten years and practically raised the young man he's currently rebelling against but it is nuanced. There are certainly some in this rebellion for personal gain and couldn't care less about William's parentage. Then there are others who apparently take it seriously. I've read this sort of thing truly was important for people in previous time periods, and likely now as well.

CHARACTERS

Karena has a vivid Establishing Character Moment that also sets the tone for the series. She is an Iron Lady; confident, ambitious and ruthless. I quickly started thinking "this is going to be Game of Thrones level dark and bloody".
She's clever and can lead a group of commandos to infiltrate a fortress if necessary. She is an anti-hero of the pragmatic or unscrupulous variety and would easily qualify as a villain if not for the fact that her opponent started a civil war over the alleged illegitimacy of her younger brother.
There's also a running thread about her chaffing at the Heir Club for Men trope. This whole plot could have been avoided if she had been male or women could be the Denland monarch and she has to frame her actions as working on her brother's behalf in order to maximize her influence and it is still limited.
She has a couple Pet the Dogs moments, such as giving Emma a dress and the concern she shows for her brother, but, given the rest of her personality, it is hard not to see some selfish angle to these actions.

Personally, I like Stephen the most of all the characters. Part of it is being a Token Good Teammate who is largely outside the war and politics. He's going along with his cousins to write a chronicle of their war. His chapters are such a remarkable contrast in view to the others that they become foils to enrich the narrative. His Puppy Love with Emma is cute. It also spurs dramatic character development.

Villain-wise I don't see much. John Esden has a big scene at the start where he announces his intentions to his captive, Sophie. His appearance is that of Affably Evil, confidence and Well-Intentioned Extremist. She basically says that he's full of shit and I am of the mind to agree. His son, Stuart, has a smaller but wider role. I don't get much from him either. Personally, I think the Hykir make a bigger presence as a villains despite being an Outside Context Problem. However, I don't think this harms the narrative over all because there are other antagonists and other problems for the protagonists (I hesitate to use the word "hero") to struggle against.

POLISH

The book looks good. I didn't see much of the spelling or grammar errors.

Trickster Eric novels gives "Kingdom Asunder" an A+

Click here for the next book review(request): Phoenix Down

Click here for the previous book review (for fun): Arrogance - Rescuing America from the Media Elite


Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Author Interview: Robert Eggleton

Today on Trickster Eric Novels is an interview with Robert Eggleton, who is the author of "Rarity in the Hollow". It is a science fiction novel in addition to a tragic comedy. As the author describes it, "A Children’s Story. For Adults." At greater length, he describes the main plot:

"Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage -- an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It's up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn't mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first."

Now on to the interview itself!

 
 
 
 
 

On your book


1. What is a one-line synopsis for your book? And is this a stand-alone or part of a series?



An empowered victim saves the universe. Rarity from the Hollow is a stand-alone novel. Future Lacy Dawn Adventures will also be stand-alone.


2. How did you decide when and where to set the story? What inspired the story itself?



The Earth setting of Rarity from the Hollow is a place well-known to me, an impoverished hollow between the hills of West Virginia filled with cranky characters. The off-planet setting, the center of Universal Governance, is a giant shopping mall. It is a projection based on the rise of Donald Trump into political power from an evening watching and projecting the future of the television show, The Apprentice. The story was inspired from my work as a children’s advocate for over forty years. In 2002, I accepted a job as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions for maltreated children. One day, a skinny little girl sat around the corner of the table from me. She spoke not of her abuse, but about her hopes and dreams for the future – a loving family that would protect her. She became my protagonist: Lacy Dawn.  


3. What are your current projects? What are you planning for future projects? What are you working on next?
The new edition of Rarity from the Hollow was released on November 3, 2016: http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-eggleton/rarity-from-the-hollow/paperback/product-22910478.html. The eBook version was released on December 5, 2016: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017REIA44/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk I’ve got some short and longer Lacy Dawn Adventures that I’m trying to find a home for. The next full-length is Ivy. It’s almost ready to submit to the publisher, Dog Horn Publishing, a traditional small press, for editing.


5. Did you outline it ahead of time, or wing it?

I used a loose outline, modified as the novel progressed. My personal editing cut scenes that didn’t fit the outline, but I modified the outline to accommodate scenes which advanced the story line.

6. How is writing a book now different from writing your first book?

Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. The original edition of received twenty-five fives star reviews and forty-three four star reviews by independent book bloggers on Amazon. There was a formatting problem in the original: the italics for the internal dialogue were missing. It's likely that some of the four star reviews will be raised to five stars if reviewers are willing to check out the new edition. The novel was also awarded Gold Medals by two major book review organizations and was named one of the five best books of 2015 along with The Martian by Andy Weir and Revival by Stephen King on Codices, a Bulgarian book review site. The book reviewer is an Astrophysicist.
One thing that will be forever different when receiving the “final product” of anything that I write from the publisher is that I will check it out in its entirety. I’d worked so hard with the editor that when the book was released I didn’t even open it. The missing italics were found by book reviewers, one of which that was particularly embarrassing: Tales of the Talisman, Volume 10, Issue 4. I’ve studied critical reviews of Rarity from the Hollow and have learned a lot about mainstream expectations. My findings have affected the editing of the next adventure, Ivy. Yes, my writing is different than when I was striving for an avant garde audience.   

7. What do you know now about being a writer that you wish you had known before you published your first book?

I didn’t know anything about being a writer before Rarity from the Hollow was published. I was totally naïve – talent = success. It was almost like I expected to be discovered like Elvis singing on a porch stoop of a dilapidated apartment building. In hindsight, I’m glad that I didn’t realize the barriers to getting one’s work recognized when I decided to write a novel. The harsh realities may have been so discouraging that I would have never produced.


8. What is the most common rookie mistake you see new authors make?

I’m certainly no expert, but I have checked out quite a few self-published debut novels, mostly when offered free on Amazon. I’ve found several that were prematurely published without proper editing. I don’t personally know any of these authors and have never posted a negative review of anybody’s hard work, but I’ve imagined new authors getting so excited about having written a novel that they skip the most important final stage – independent editing by someone who comes at least close to qualifications as a professional.

9. What sort of author marketing have you found to be most effective?

I’ve never spent a penny on anything to do with having Rarity from the Hollow published or promoted. Sadly, the publisher, a struggling small press, hasn’t spent anything on advertising either. I’m hopeful that kind book bloggers, like you, will be effective in telling the world about my novel.

On Writing

10. Do you use beta readers, and, if so, what qualities do you look for in a beta?

No. I didn’t even know what that term meant until recently. Rarity from the Hollow was edited by three independent professionals affiliated with the publisher.

Personal

11. Where can we find your work?

Purchase links:





Public Author Contacts:







12. What book or books are you reading now?


I just finished reading two books and haven’t picked the next. Hit and Run is a very interesting psychological memoir written by Dr. Bob Rich, a prominent Australian psychologist. I don’t want to tell you the title of the other novel that I finished, written by a great book blogger who sucks as an author. If you have a recommendation, I read in all genres and prefer a literary element. I’m no longer into pure escapist novels. After all, there is literary content in Star Wars, although some readers seem to ignore it. 

 





Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Read for Fun: Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite

I was in a bookstore one day several years ago and I saw this book near the counter. I picked it up on a whim and I only got around to reading it late last year. This is non-fiction so I can't use my usual method of analysis but I will still assign a grade.

Disclaimer: I'm deliberately avoiding the politics and issues that he talks about in his book because they are irrelevant to my blog. I'm only interested in the logic of his arguments and the evidence he provides for his arguments.

Mr. Goldberg makes a lot of good points. For instance, when he states that "The New York Times has a bias" he provides the following explanation.  This is the idea that people of a certain stance started working for New York Times during the 60s, a couple rose to high positions within it over time, and valued pushing their goals more than being objective. Now the paper as a whole is different than what it used to be. I find this to be within reason; certainly the big wigs in a media company can drastically change the culture and output of such a company.
 
Then, Mr. Goldberg asserts, because the New York Times is the "paper of record", other media outlets play Follow The Leader. I can also see something like that happening from seeing similar articles across many papers across several months. This is just one example where I think he has a point.  If he's right about half of his total arguments then that would point to a problem in general media. However, his personal problem is that he lacks professionalism and this undermines all of his arguments. Again, I will only show a sample of examples.

The first sign of a lack professionalism: trashing reviewers.
 
In this book, he writes at length about reception of his first book, which covers the same idea of a political bias in general media. In short, a lot of people thought poorly of it and expressed these opinions. The subject is certainly relevant but given his lack of professionalism it looks like he's trashing his reviewers and throwing a tantrum about media outlets that didn't give him the coverage that he wanted. This is what you call an "Author Behaving Badly".

 
The second sign of a lack professionalism: creating straw men


He talks as if the anger from his former co-workers regarding his previous book is because they're upset that he's exposing their bias, puncturing their bubble, etc. However, I do not find that to be the case. When you say things like "sell their children into prostitution if it meant getting more air time" (page 221, the start of the chapter "liberal bias? Never mind!") anyone would be angered. In addition to this, when referring to them he creates a straw man to make them look bad; a naïve, pampered, stuck-up elitist who claims to be smart but doesn't know anything at all and believes their audience is a group of unwashed, simple-minded hicks. It sounds like he just didn't like or didn't agree with his former co-workers and is venting frustration with name calling.


The third sign of a lack professionalism: reliance on anecdotes


His reliance on anecdotes is also a strike against his argument, regardless of what point he is trying to make. If someone can't verify his sources and information then he might as well be making it up. Sure one could argue that the people he's talking about would never admit to their bias when asked to verify, and it is a good point. However, it also allows Mr. Goldberg to say whatever he wants because it can't be properly cited. It's basically gossip.


Trickster Eric Novels gives "Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite" a C

Click here for the next book review (request): Kingdom Asunder


Click here for previous book review (for fun): Killer Angels

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Read for fun: Killer Angels

My dad loves this book and he knew that I liked reading about history so he gave it to me. This is a novel about the American Civil War, specifically the Battle of Gettysburg. As I understand it, Mr.Shaara used primary sources, such as Longstreet's journal, to reconstruct events. I will examine plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.

PLOT

The book is structured by rotating between the Union and Confederate armies chapter by chapter as the three days of the battle unfold. This means that there is no single protagonist. Instead, Longstreet and Chamberlain form deuteragonists with other chapters provided by other characters such as Lee and a spy. This means that both sides have their chance to say their piece which naturally provides more holistic information than either side alone could provide.

The narration is on no one's side. I find that professional and also impressive. This is not a historical textbook built on facts and figures. This is a historical novel built on emotions and motivations. Mr. Shaara makes everyone sympathetic, and if not sympathetic, then at least understandable from where they stand.

There's one guy in the story itself who plans to write a book about the battle and General Lee's tactics and he is blatantly in favor for the Confederacy. I find that a funny contrast with the character's own author.

Much of the action in the book is dialogue. There are two or more people talking before and after the various battles. This is because a lot goes into battles and not just strategy meetings or rousing speeches, but I was nonetheless surprised.

Another impressive thing is how Mr.Shaara sets up the battle. Looking backwards, it's difficult not to think of the Battle of Gettysburg as a Union victory, and a smashing one at that. However, Mr.Shaara's work on the context of the battle makes it seem unlikely if not impossible, and the three days of battle are touch-and-go. "Fix your bayonets and charge" is an awesome moment.


CHARACTERS

There is a large cast of characters here. The two that get the most focus are James Longstreet, a Confederate general, and Joshua Chamberlain, a Union Colonel.


Longstreet is portrayed by Mr.Saara as an Only Sane Man. He repeatedly tries to tell Lee and others about wiser tactics and strategy but is either ignored or denied. This leads to him lamenting the old school chivalry of the Confederate army and unknowingly predicting the outcome of Pickett's charge.

Chamberlain sounds like an Action Survivor. In contrast the professional soldiers around, he's less experienced and not so much in the soldier culture. However, as a college professor and master of language, he gives a great speech. Me and Dad consider his defense of Little Round Top to be the highlight of the story.

One thing that surprised me was Lee's depiction. Mr. Shaara writes him as this fragile old guy; both physically due to illness and also emotionally. Longstreet hesitates to argue or contradict him at times, like he's this glass idol. Also, he has a heavy reliance on army morale even when the enemy holds a superior position. Perhaps it is due to the narrow scope of the book but I do no understand why Lee is so highly regarded. I'll look it up some where else.

POLISH

It's a clipped tone; the narration often has short and brief sentences. I took this to be Shaara representing the thought pattern of what ever view point character he was using at the moment. It's definitely an emotional tone, be it somber, incredulous, hopeful or despairing.

There's a number of maps spread out through the story. They're helpful for visualizing the progress and movements of the two forces. Although it was sometimes hard to match who was with whom; maybe it was just me.

Trickster Eric Novels gives Killer Angels a B+


Click here for the previous book review (also not a review request): Heaven is for Real

Click here for the next book review (for fun): Arrogance - Rescuing America from the Media Elite.html

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie review: Assassin's Creed

I just saw this; like just now (I started writing this immediately after getting home). It was fantastic. It's hard for me to understand the negative reviews. I'll try to address them in my review but the main focus is going to be my own impression.

PLOT

The prologue does a good job of providing information about the series, the Assassin vs Templar war, and the Apple of Eden. There's this awkward text scrawl at the start but it passes quickly and the mission briefing for Aguilar is much more effective. There is no info dump anywhere around here.

Just like in the games, there are two plotlines: there is one in 1491 and one in the modern day setting of 2016. I don't think it is asking too much for audiences to follow two plotlines, and especially not when they interweave this much. The 1491 plotline follows the local chapter of the Assassin Brotherhood attempting to prevent a conquest of Granada by the Templars(via the Christendom coalition)  in addition to keeping the Apple of Eden stored there from falling into Templar hands. The 2016 plotline is the Templars researching the 1491 plotline through the Animus technology developed by Abstergo. Callum's personal plotline involves his conflict with his heritage, both in his father and his ancestor. It was interesting to see him introduced to this shadow war, gain information and waver back and forth on the fence before coming down on one side.  It's developed well in my opinion.


I like the use of the new Animus. Augmented reality with solid weapons instead of a chair makes sense from a Watsonian POV. Surely being able to move around and mimick movements and have something iconic in one's hand would aid the synchronization. The cutting back and forth aids the perception of synchronization as well as the concept of the Bleeding Effect (via muscle memory). Although, I can understand why some don't like it; it is kinda of jarring or even narmish to see Aguilar fighting real enemies in his present and then Callum lashing out at nothing and climbing aspects of a machine instead of Aguilar with a building. The first time the machine starts up is an extended process but that is just for the first time; likely so the audience can see how it works.


The game series as a whole has a grey-and-grey morality even if the individual games themselves do not. One can understand why Sophia wants to eradicate violence in humans at large while also  recognizing the extreme means and ends that she is working with and towards. It is easy to both sympathize with the ideas of freedom represented by the Assassins in general while also seeing that their methods are bloody (both for themselves and others).

I was not confused by the plot developments and had no difficulty following them. I thought there was sufficient exposition without going into info dump. I have a working understanding of the story's lore but I was also paying attention.

The ending is good. It is conclusive but it also has a sequel hook. Similar to the games, it is a single chapter in the ongoing war between Templars and Assassins.


CHARACTER

I like Callum Lynch. He's a complex guy; got a lot of layers. He's a Momma's Boy because he only has fond memories of her and something crucial regarding that happens in the main narrative. He has a mess of Daddy Issues because his Dad apparently killed his mom. He says that he is an aggressive guy but also that violence helped him stay alive which implies he would rather not be aggressive. He was "executed" for capital murder and yet it is the mercy that his assassin ancestor demonstrates that, to me at least, is the turning point in the climax.  He doesn't like the Brotherhood of Assassins or their Creed and comes to want to destroy them but then comes around to understanding them.


Sophia, likewise, is a complex Templar. She doesn't seem to care about the war with the Assassins and insists that Callum enter the Animus of his own violation despite her "life's work" hanging in the balance and the fact that time is not on her side.  It's more like convincing him to join her side, or at least her cause, and she wants to bond with him instead of using coercion and impersonal force like her father. It's the Templar goal of improving humanity by infringing on free will (in this case, the capacity and tendency for violence) but her methods and ideology are Assassin-like.

What I like about the Assassins in general is that they are impressive but not superhuman. It's like a deconstruction of Charles Atlas Superpower. Their training makes them skilled and strong and quick etc. but they are still human. It makes their commitment to personal sacrifice more meaningful because the sacrifice is often necessary.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets development. There are two plotlines and two casts so there's not enough screen time to go around. However, I feel that this resource was well utilized and that minor characters were given sufficient development for their role.


POLISH

This movie looks amazing. I'm talking about the practical effects for things like the Hidden Blade and Leap of Faith. "CGI slogfest" does not describe this movie. When reading reviews along those lines, it sounded more like a generic insult than something specific with this movie.

Trickster Eric Novels gives Assassin's Creed 2016 an A+

Click here for the next movie review: Legends of the Hidden Temple

Click here for my previous movie review: Doctor Strange (2016 MCU)

If you'd like to read my review of this movie's novelization, you can find it here.


Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).